Albums, Music, The Revue — May 24, 2017 at 5:30 am

Gothic Tropic – ‘Fast or Feast’ (album review)

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“At its best, life is completely unpredictable.” ~~~ Christopher Walken

Unpredictability has defined Cecilia Della Peruti since she started her project Gothic Project in 2011. Her debut EP revolved around neo-psychedelia while the singles she has released the past two years have been wide-ranging. Indie pop, electro-rock, synth-pop, or R&B-infused pop, she’s done it all and with aplomb. Given her chameleon approach, what direction would she take on her long-awaited, debut album? The answer is exactly what we expected.

Fast or Feast is predictably unpredictable. From the diversity in genres to the extension of time periods, Peruti’s first record is refreshing and exhilarating. The roaring “Stronger” kicks things off with a bang. Akin to the percussion-driven music of the ’80s, the song is made for thrill rides down the coastal highways of California. But despite the upbeat nature of the song, an edge persists on this number about redemption and perseverance. The alt-pop gem, “How Life Works”, follows. The combination of synths, percussion, and even a horn section build the emotion in the track, but it is Peruti’s lyrics of regret and sorrow that give the song its soul.

“Teenage Behavior” is Peruti the mad scientist at work. The track is an infusion of multiple genres – synth-pop, jangle-pop, surf-pop, R&B, and classic rock. It shouldn’t work, yet the mélange is surprisingly catchy and infectious. On “Your Soul”, Peruti heads in a more straightforward pop direction, but the execution is masterful. The song can only be described as a slice of pop perfection. The guitar bursts and the radiance of the synth that streams across the song immediately hook the listener. Peruti’s soothing vocals and her intimate storyline, however, permanently draw one in to the song. Her songwriting on this track approaches the brilliance of Mike Hadreas (a.k.a. Perfume Genius) in its intimacy and vividness.

I want to know your ways.
I want to be your habit.
I see all of your passion.
I want to be your pain.
I want to be your pleasure.

Peruti’s experimentation returns on “Chemical Trail”, a sultry electro-pop song that combines the likes of Charli XCX and BØRNS, with whom she tours as a sessional musician in their bands. Its softness provides the perfect lead-in to the album’s star, “Don’t Give Me Up”. Similar to the alt-pop approach of “How Life Works”, Peruti adds more synth-pop signatures and a touch of Dev Hynes-like R&B grooves . While the song sees Peruti extend herself musically, her intimate and personal songwriting remains. “Don’t give me up, don’t give me up”, she repeats as she battles to win back her partner.

It’s difficult to take the rock out of the rocker, and Gothic Tropic showcase this on the quick and fiery instrumental (and whimsically titled), “If I Had a Body”. The song at first seems out of place, but then again the entire album is built on its unpredictability. The same could be said for “Major”. This delirious, Vivien Girls-inspired psychedelic-pop track comes closest to replicating Peruti’s original mastery of merging pop and rock into something anthemic yet infectious. The track is also a reminder that Peruti is a gifted guitarist.

The album ends with two tongue-in-cheek numbers. “Cry Like A Man” is a summery, ’70s-esque song that challenge society’s notion of masculinity. Meanwhile, “Feed You To The Sharks” is a shimmering, bubblegum soul-pop song that takes a bit from the ’60s, ’80s, and present day. An air of The Ronettes floats through the air in the melody while Peruti’s vocals approach the ethereal heights of Springtime Carnivore. Despite the warm and pleasant melody, this is anything but a love song. Instead, it is revenge masked as a tender ballad, and the song showcases Peruti’s humorous side.

But Fast or Feast is no laughing matter. Instead, it should be celebrated and enjoyed for its flourishes and treasure trove of surprises. Its unpredictability is what makes the album interesting, exhilarating, and captivating, and this trait is what makes Peruti one of music’s most exciting artists today.

Fast or Feast is available now via Old Flame Records. Purchase it at the label’s store and Bandcamp.

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